MOUNT VERNON — They aren’t the stars of the Fredericktown boys cross country team. But they are the backbone. Without them, the Freddies wouldn’t be in the regional tournament this Saturday.
They call themselves “Nolan and the Lifeguards.” They are the four seniors who run on the Fredericktown team. And they’ve known nothing but winning.
Nolan Dilts, Brant Bowers, David Streby and Rob Gregg have been running as a team since they were sophomores — but they’ve been running around as friends for much longer.
“We were in the same reading group in second grade,” said Gregg. “There were just five of us. That’s how we all met.”
Bowers and Gregg were teammates from seventh grade. They are the only six-time Mid-Buckeye Conference champions in Fredericktown cross country history.
Dilts has been a teammate off and on throughout that time. Streby, the latest to join the group, started running three years ago after quitting football.
“A bunch of my friends got me to do it,” said Streby. “Then they quit, but I liked it, so I kept doing it.”
Dilts runs when he’s not wrestling.
“Last year, I started wrestling in the middle of the (cross country) season,” said Dilts, “and I just went downhill in running. This year, I’m doing better.”
Bowers started running when he couldn’t compete in swimming at Fredericktown.
“I learned that it’s a much harder sport,” said Bowers. “Because you go for so much longer. In swimming, if you swim a 100m butterfly, you push that out and then you’re done. You get to go lie down. But here, you have to run a 5K all at once.”
The seniors feed off each other to get better. They claim they actually concentrate more on competing with each other than with runners on other teams.
“The race could have no one else, and we’d race against each other anyway,” said Bowers.
“One of the racing techniques we’ve learned is to pass with authority, which is to run really fast for a little bit and pass somebody, just to morally defeat them,” said Streby. “Well, you’re not supposed to do that with your teammates. But Rob does.”
Their motto is simple: “I don’t bleed.” It’s a motto they put on their T-shirts (three of which say “Lifeguard” on the back; the other says “Nolan.”) It’s also something they shout at random times while running.
“It came from a missions trip to Peru,” said Streby. “A kid named Zack Brammer. He’d go do something dumb, and we’d ask ‘What are you doing?’ and he’d yell, ‘I don’t bleed!’ We got him a shirt just because we use his phrase.”
“We actually don’t bleed,” said Bowers. “It’s a proven fact. If I had a knife, I’d show you.”
Where did the name “Nolan and the Lifeguards” come from?
“Well, they’re lifeguards, and I’m Nolan,” said Dilts.
That’s actually true. Streby, Bowers and Gregg were employed as lifeguards at Hiawatha Water Park/Pool. The name stuck.
“It’s our boy band,” said Streby. “We have one hit.”
The group did once perform as a band. They wrote original songs which can be heard on the Internet.
Running is what they’re doing now. And they love it.
“I still remember my first race, crossing the finish line,” said Streby. “It’s a lot more work than I thought. It’s about how much pain and suffering you can put yourself through. It’s about mental toughness.”
“If it’s easy for you, then you’re not trying,” Gregg added.
The four of them will run together at the Division III regional cross country tournament at Pickerington North High School on Saturday. The Saturday after that is the state tournament in Hebron. Then the band will pack up and head in separate directions. All four plan to attend college, though none of them is sure exactly where. When the group does get together down the road, it’s hard to tell where these Ivy League candidates will end up.
“Who knows? When we get together again, we’ll probably sit around and play high stakes poker,” said Bowers.
Spoken like a true Lifeguard.